The Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa's new Tomlinson Family Foundation Clubhouse is a lot like a Joni Mitchell song, in reverse: They unpaved a parking lot and put up a paradise.
The beautifully renovated clubhouse played host Thursday morning to the non-profit organization’s 10th anniversary charity breakfast, which enjoyed its biggest crowd ever of early-morning risers.
Nearly 400 business and community leaders turned out for the event, which was co-chaired by celebrated philanthropist and long-time board member Gary Zed and his partner, Liza Mrak, co-owner of presenting sponsor Mark Motors.
Their goal was a highly ambitious one: to raise $500,000. As of late this afternoon, the preliminary amount was well in excess of $300,000, with more money still coming in.
The breakfast has cumulatively raised more than $3 million over the years.
The crowd was given plenty of compelling reasons to be generous with its money. There were stories shared by BGCO youth and alumni about the opportunities provided to them at the safe and inclusive clubhouses. The keynote address was delivered by a gifted speaker and raconteur, Fahd Alhattab, who's also an alumnus of the BGCO.
The Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa provides free programs for children and youth, both after school and on weekends. They're geared toward the areas of education, physical activity and healthy lifestyle, leadership and creative arts.
The organization's seven clubhouses are located in areas of the city where children are at-risk and vulnerable to negative influences. It also runs a summer camp near Eganville.
Each year, the club reaches out to 4,500 local children. Some of the kids have fled or immigrated here with their families, coming from more than 30 countries.
Dignitaries gathered for the official ribbing cutting for the Tomlinson Family Foundation Clubhouse (formerly the Police Youth Centre), located at 1463 Prince of Wales Dr. Before the renovations, the place was an old firehall. The area where the breakfast was held used to be for parking, the room heard.
The $4-million project, which broke ground in October 2017, saw the clubhouse double in size. It added a new gymnasium and an all-season outdoor rink. The renovations received a $1-million donation from the Tomlinson Family Foundation, which was represented at the ribbon cutting by R.W. Tomlinson Lld. executive vice president Cindy Tomlinson Keon.
On hand were BGCO executive director Colleen Mooney and well-known restaurateur and BGCO alumnus Stephen Beckta. Also glimpsed in the crowd was CLV Group CEO Mike McGahan, who won a big award last year from the Ottawa chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals for his generous support of the BGCO. Brothers Stuart and Ken Ages from Paramount Properties were out supporting the cause, as was Rob Ashe, former CEO of Cognos, and 1251 Capital Group co-CEO and board member Michael Wilson and his wife, Jacqui, after whom the clubhouse's new Wilson Family Gymnasium is named. That’s also where everyone gathered for the breakfast.
BGCO board member Derek Noble, a partner at Huntington Properties, later took to the stage to drum up donations. He quoted Michelle Obama, who said: "When you've worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed."
Attendees also included Mayor Jim Watson and Councillors Riley Brockington, Jean Cloutier, Diane Deans, Mathieu Fleury, Jan Harder and Theresa Kavanagh, along with Ottawa MPP Lisa MacLeod and MP Catherine McKenna.